Can’t we approach it more rationally and democratically?

EC COMMISSIONERS FULL 1 The Electoral Commissioners of Ghana

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 Source: Kwaku Badu

Of course, there are a few countries where the heads of state play a part in the selection of the members of the Electoral Management Bodies. Nonetheless, unlike Ghana’s mode of selection, in other jurisdictions, the legislature would have to confirm the head of state’s nomination for the appointment to take effect.

“The President shall, acting on the advice of the Council of State, appoint the Chairman, Deputy Chairmen and the other members of the Commission.” Source: Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, Article 43 (2).

Interestingly, Ghana’s mode of appointing Electoral Commissioners has some similarities with that of the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom and the Northern Ireland for instance, the Queen appoints Electoral Commissioners. The difference here though, is that, Her Majesty the Queen has no political affiliation and therefore does not benefit directly from her appointees.

In my humble opinion, though, it is somewhat oxymoronic for Ghana’s written constitution to allow the sitting President to have a leading role in the appointment of an Electoral Commissioner to oversee the elections in which the appointing President would be partaking. How bizarre?

Let us face it, though, the mode of appointing Ghana’s Electoral Commissioners is extremely weird. Indeed, in the life of me, I do not envisage the appointing President appointing someone who has an allegiance to his political opponents.

Obviously, conventional wisdom would dictate that the appointing President will more likely appoint someone who sympathises with him/her. Of course, we can agree to disagree on my presumptuousness.

Apparently, there is also a school of thought who argues that former President Rawlings appointed Dr Afari-Gyan and never favoured NDC presidential candidates.

I am afraid, such view point is specious. First of all, it was President Rawlings who appointed Dr Gyan and not the NDC as a whole. Moreover, President Rawlings never lost an election under Dr Gyan’s tenure as an Electoral Commissioner. But NDC rather lost elections under the flag-bearership of the late Mills.

But all said and done, I have no reason to suggest that Dr Gyan favoured former President Rawlings. And, if, indeed, Dr Gyan was fair in his handling of the electoral processes, does it mean another appointed Electoral Commissioner would follow suit? Simply put, it is never right for the President to select a referee to officiate a match between his opponent and himself.

On a lighter note, as a dire hard supporter of Mighty Chelsea F/C, I will definitely welcome an opportunity for our chairman, Abramovich to have a greater say in selecting the referees for our crunch and decisive matches. How wonderful that would be. And if that was to be the case, I will never fault our opponents for having a glint of suspicion on their minds over the referee. Would you?

But all said and done, the onus would be on the appointed referee to exhibit maturity and fairness, for all eyes will be on him/her. And, by the way, who said that the appointed referee does not have a preference?

Suffice it to stress that it only takes a principled and honest individual to resist temptations. I mean an individual who thinks reflectively over the ramifications of dubious officiating, for in the event of a pitch invasion, the referee might not walk out safely from the confused tumultuous mingling.

Rightly so, if we have chosen the path of democracy, we must as well be prepared to swallow the insipid pellets associated with it. So going forward, we must take a cue from a number of jurisdictions whose methods of selecting their Electoral Commissioners appear more rational and democratic in my opinion.

Even in some embryonic democratic jurisdictions like Burkina Faso, for instance, 5 members are selected by the political party that has the majority in the National Assembly, 5 members are selected by the opposition parties and 5 members represent civil society organisations (3 members represent religious communities, 1 traditional authorities and the remaining 1 member represents human rights associations). Source: Electoral Code as amended in 2015, Article 5).

And in Togo, 5 members are selected by the president, 10 by the opposition, 2 by the civil society and the remaining 2 members are selected by the government. Source: Electoral Code No. 2000-07 as amended by law No 2005-001).

In Guinea, ten members are appointed by the ruling political party, ten are nominated by the political parties of the opposition, three by the organizations of civil society, and the remaining two members are appointed by the administration. Source: Organic Law L/2012/016/CNT of 19 September 2012 on the composition, organization and functions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), art. 6).

In Benin, 1 member is nominated by the President of the Republic, 9 members are nominated by the National Assembly, taking into account its political configuration and 1 member is nominated by and from civil society organisations with at least five years of engagement in the field of governance and democracy. Source: Law n ° 2010-33 of 7 January 2011 setting general rules for the elections in the Republic of Benin, Article 13 (2).

In Ethiopia, the members of the Board are appointed by the House of Peoples’ Representatives upon the Prime Minister’s recommendations. Before nominating the Board members who fulfil the criteria, the Prime Minister shall ensure that there has been sufficient consultation forum for political organizations that have seats in the House of Peoples’ Representatives to ascertain that the nominees are independent and impartial.

The Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Board are appointed by the House of Peoples’ Representatives from among the members, upon the Prime Minister’s recommendations. Source: Electoral Law as amended by Proclamation No. 532/2007, Articles 6 (1, 2, 7).

On the other hand, in the advanced democracies such as the U.S, the Federal Election Commission is composed of the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives or their designees, ex officio and without the right to vote, and 6 members appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. No more than 3 members of the Commission appointed under this paragraph may be affiliated with the same political party. Source: Federal Election Campaign Laws, Article 437(c).

Finally, in Australia, the Chairperson and the non-judicial appointee are appointed by the Governor General and shall hold office on a part time basis. The person appointed as Chairperson shall be a person whose name is included in a list of the names of 3 eligible Judges submitted to the Governor General by the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia. Source: The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 as amended, Article 6 (3, 4).

I must, however, confess that I am extremely impressed with Ethiopia and the francophone countries methods of selecting the members of their Electoral Management Bodies. Their methods of selection appear more judicious and democratic, and, I will entreat our parliament to take a critical look and act accordingly.

K. Badu, UK.

Columnist: Kwaku Badu